Reposted with permission from the author (me!) from EdTechApps (edtechapps.blogspot.com):
A growing trend among educators (particularly of middle and high school aged students) is to include regular blogging as a writing activity for classes. As with every classroom activity, there are positive and negative outcomes from blogging, and it must be a decision made with considerable deliberation and planning.
First, a statement of my own personal beliefs regarding the issue: I do not believe that simply by blogging will a student magically turn from one who hates writing into one who is passionate about writing. To the student who loathes writing, blogging is simply one more chore that he is required to complete before moving on to the next activity in which he is actually interested. That’s not to say that the student won’t improve his writing ability through blogging, just that it won’t improve his desire to write. There will likely be some who do discover some latent penchant for writing once given the freedom and control that a blog offers, but they will likely be in the minority. Students either enjoy writing or they don’t. Blogging is not likely to change that.
With that disclaimer made, I do feel that blogs, when used appropriately, can be a very strong tool for learning. In my opinion, for a blog to be used most effectively, it must be student-centric. By that, I mean that the student must feel ownership of the blog–not simply a digital version of a journal that he is forced to keep in order to receive a grade. It must be something that he wants to participate in. This means that there needs to be a great amount of latitude in what the student is allowed/encouraged/required to post on his blog. The student’s blog must be cross-curricular: he posts things about all of his classes, not just his English/writing classes. If he feels like writing about the New York Knicks‘ performance in the playoffs, he can. If he feels like reviewing the latest Lady Gaga album, he can. Otherwise, the blog is simply another stuffy academic exercise that stands between him and his free time.
Of course, all of this freedom must be contained within a controlled environment–for example, the student’s language must be school-appropriate. This doesn’t mean formal academic style (though that should be encouraged), it simply means that if he wouldn’t talk directly to the school principal with the language, it doesn’t belong on the blog. Likewise, videos, links, files, and anything else shared through the blog must be equally appropriate. This means that the school must have the ability and the responsibility to monitor and moderate all content posted through student (school-sponsored) blogs.
With the freedom to write by choice and the structure of a school-moderated outlet, the student will most likely improve his writing skill simply through the volume of writing done and the volume of feedback given. As he writes more and receives more comments, the student will automatically begin to tailor his writing to better suit his audience. This is more or less a natural occurring phenomenon in other milieu (students learn to address elderly adults differently than they do their friends, for example), and when implemented properly, will also occur in educational blogging.